“Had me sitting on the edge of my seat!” Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I devoured this book!” Milo’s Library ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Impossible to put down!” KKEC Reads ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Keeps you hooked until the very end!” Goodreads Reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Just as the lightning bolt of memory passed, a pair of hands grabbed Olivia’s shoulders and shoved her body backwards against the wooden floor. I’m not going to die here, am I? she thought, though the answer seemed all too clear. Am I?
Port Gamble, Washington: When the body of English exchange student Olivia Grant is found at the palatial home of local schoolgirl, Brianna Connors, the town assumes that it’s a Halloween prank gone wrong. But when Brianna and her boyfriend Drew are spotted casually shopping the next day, people start to talk: how could they be so unaffected by Olivia’s death?
Twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan have received signs from beyond the grave for as long as they can remember. As the local police piece together the mystery, the girls begin to receive messages suggesting that something darker was at play that night. The killer had a target and they’re not done yet.
When the prime suspects disappear, the twins know that time is running out. But to get to the killer, they will first need to confront a close family member who harbors a long-held secret and committed the ultimate act of betrayal.
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an unputdownable thriller about two girls’ hunt to find a killer on the run, with a touch of supernatural help. Perfect for fans of Melinda Leigh, Robert Dugoni and James Patterson.
This book was originally published as BETRAYAL. This new edition has been re-edited since its publication in 2012.
See what readers are saying about Dying to Be Her:
“When it comes to Gregg Olsen you can NOT go wrong…amazingly good…I read it in one sitting, I devoured it!” Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I loved this book. This is not my first book by this author but it ranks right towards the top…a thriller that brings suspense to a new level. … kept me turning pages to the end. The twists and turns had me sitting on the edge of my seat.” Goodreads reviewer, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“I devoured this book in two days and loved every page of it… amazing!” Milo’s Library, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Fantastic… starts with a serious bang and doesn’t let up until the very end. The plot is so fast-paced and intense, and it is almost impossible to put down. There are some twists in this book that you will never see coming…
Release date: February 2, 2021
Print pages: 350
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Dying to Be Her
Olivia immersed herself in American TV the entire way over the polar ice cap to Seattle and wondered if the little boy to her left was going to be a kid contestant on The Biggest Loser. His father definitely was destined for some kind of makeover show. He not only smelled vaguely bad—garlic—but his mustache hung over his lip like an inverted vacuum cleaner attachment. The stylist who cut his hair had apparently used a saucepan for the template. When he looked over, she simply smiled. Olivia Grant was always very, very polite.
As it turned out, Port Gamble wasn’t sunny Southern California. Not by a long shot. Instead, even in late August when she’d arrived, it had been about as soggy and dismal as London in the middle of winter. Gray. Wet. Windy. The people who lived there were average teachers, cooks, millworkers, nurses.
So not movie stars with golden hair and perfectly straight teeth.
Olivia pondered this while sitting in the living room of her first American party. Olivia conceded that her first American beer wasn’t what she thought it would be either. Brianna Connors, her new best friend, had promised that her dad’s favorite craft brew was no big deal, even at 11 percent alcohol content. Tonight at Brianna’s Halloween party, Olivia—in full costume—had sucked down the amber liquid like water and at first felt great. Then all of a sudden, somewhere between fending off some geeky, eye-linered, pirate boy’s cringeworthy come-on (“Hey, hot wench, you lookin’ for a first mate?”), arguing with her host roommate, Beth Lee, and trying to cozy up to Jason Deveraux, the hottest guy at Kingston High, a wave of nausea hit her like a mini-tsunami. With the party still in eardrum-splitting full swing, Olivia went upstairs and sought refuge in Brianna’s acre-sized bed.
Olivia curled up for an hour, maybe two. If she’d been able to recount it later, it would have been hard to say exactly how long. Time came and went in the way that it does in a dream. Vapors. Mist. She wondered if she’d been drugged. She had only had one beer, two at most. She ran the scenario in her head. It was true that she had felt a little sick that morning. Maybe it was nerves? Maybe it was the onset of the bug that had been going around school? She hadn’t really eaten a thing since breakfast. Could it be just the combination of really bad American beer and no food?
Where was Brianna? Olivia thought, feeling sicker by the minute as the room started to spin. Was the party still going on? She could hear loud music and some teen slasher DVD blasting from the TV downstairs. The bass from the two competing subwoofers pumped up through the gleaming, dark, walnut floorboards.
Slowly, slowly, and with great effort, Olivia sat up, pulled off the scratchy, sparkly costume, exposing her thin, white Calvin Klein slip underneath, and looked at herself in the mirror across the room. Even in the dark and through her late-night drunken haze, she could see her red hair, her flawless pale skin and her green eyes. Boasting was so tacky, but even then, sick as she was, she thought she looked pretty good. It was ridiculous that she had worn not one but two silly costumes during the party. Yet it was her first Halloween in America, a country that apparently reveled in the weird, macabre and cheesy. She wondered why every boy’s costume was that of a superhero and every girl was dressed up as a naughty or sexy something.
America, land of the puritan posers.
Slipping Brianna’s bedazzled “Lights out!” eye mask on, Olivia wrapped herself in the slippery, satiny duvet—the same one on which she and Brianna had spilled nail polish the previous week when they were ragging on their absent mothers. She felt the circular dry spot that had stiffened the fabric. She picked at the spot with her long, slender fingers. It felt slick and smooth.
It wasn’t the last thing she would feel that night.
Where Olivia’s slip ended and the sheets of Brianna’s bed began was impossible to pinpoint in the dark. Olivia tossed, turned, wriggled and, finally, started to get comfortable. As she drifted off to sleep, Olivia sensed movement in the far reaches of Brianna’s expansive bedroom.
“Hello?” Olivia called out.
No response. Just the sound of a girl screaming on the TV downstairs.
Again, the air moved.
“Who’s there?” she asked. Olivia unsuccessfully tried to lift her arms and head from the mummy-like yardage of sheets and the white fabric of her slip that had encircled her limbs and torso like a malevolent wisteria vine. She got one arm free and pulled off the eye mask. Olivia looked over. Silver glinted in the darkness as a shadowy figure moved toward her.
“Who are you?” she asked, still unable to see a face. Olivia was annoyed, but not unnerved. It was, after all, a party. Whoever it was might be looking for a place to crash just like she had when the beer hit her. Or maybe it was a Halloween prank? The living room and family room downstairs were full of kids looking to be the center of attention. Fighting to make an impression. Tweeted about. Facebooked.
“This isn’t funny,” she said, her clipped accent muffled in the bedsheet.
It wasn’t. Not at all.
It happened so fast, the way awful things almost always do. The mattress dipped under the weight of another person kneeling on the bed. The first cut wasn’t the deepest. It was tentative, a slight jab through the snow-white fabric just above her navel.
“Hey! Stop!” Olivia cried.
Her voice, loud as it was, was lost in the sounds of the music and laughter downstairs. If anyone had heard her muffled scream, they might have mistaken it for that terrified teen with the fake boobs on the enormous plasma TV in the family room where half the partygoers congregated.
Yet there was nothing fake about Olivia Grant or the fear that seized her. Her manicured fingertips found her abdomen. She pressed it lightly with the heel of her palm and cried out in pain. She barely had time to process the fact that her hand was wet.
All too quickly, someone was on top of her, holding her arms down. Everything conspired against her. Her flowing slip, Brianna’s bedding, the eye mask and even her long red hair entwined in her attacker’s fist gave her little hope of escape.
Is this a sick joke? Did the geek pirate not understand NO means NO?
Pain shot through the sixteen-year-old’s body and she started breathing hard. This was no trick-or-treat prank. Her mind reeled. Olivia thought back to the self-defense moves she had seen on American TV. The key was to have a survival plan, a strategy to save your life. She worked up a scenario to use her knee to shove off her attacker, freeing her arms and scooting to the edge of the bed where she could—just maybe—get away.
But that damn sheet. It was a magician’s endless handkerchief. Olivia couldn’t move her feet. It was like she’d been spun up in a cocoon. The force of the continued onslaught pushed her, wrappings and all, crashing to the floor.
“Stop it! Stop!” she screamed. “That hurts!”
Despite her beauty, Olivia Grant was no English rose. She was not frail, passive or genteel. She was a fighter. Finally free, her arms and hands flailed into the darkness. Once, twice, she was hit by something sharp. Hard. It was hot and agonizing. Olivia realized what was happening was not a prank. She was fighting for her life and she knew it.
Was it a knife? Scissors? A box cutter? Something very sharp and deadly.
It passed through the teen’s mind right then that she might never get to Hollywood. She’d never have a real boyfriend. She’d never get back home. She’d never design that dress that every other girl in the world would covet. Her life and all her big dreams would be extinguished right there in her friend’s bedroom.
With everything she had, Olivia lurched herself upright. She ran her bloody hands under her slip as she tried to extricate herself from the shroud, once white, now red.
Tears came as she thought of home. Her mind flashed to a memory. She and her mother were packing her suitcases for the trip in Olivia’s bedroom back in London. Her mother implored her not to take her finest things to America, as she was all but certain that they’d be stolen.
Everyone thinks that Aussies are descended from criminals, but I think there’s a mix-up there. Take a look at America’s crime rate, her mom had said. She sniffed in that holier-than-thou affectation she used whenever the occasion called for it, which was always. The U.S. is worse than down under by far.
She had been right. Her mother, with whom she’d battled about the smallest of things, had been absolutely right.
Just as the lightning bolt of memory passed, a pair of hands grabbed Olivia’s shoulders and shoved her body backwards against the wooden floor. Hard and complete. So fast and so slow at the same time. She gasped.
I’m not going to die here, am I? she thought, though the answer seemed all too clear. Am I?
Olivia filled her lungs and screamed once more—only to have a wad of fabric violently shoved into her mouth. She started to choke, but she refused to give up. She had come to America to snag a boyfriend, be discovered for the rocking talent that she was and to import everything she had learned back to the UK. She, most assuredly, had not come to America to die.
Get. Off. Me.
The teenager felt hot breath against her face. It came at her in quick puffs and it smelled of beer.
Jason? Kurt? All the boys had been drinking. It could be any one of a dozen or more.
As Olivia tried to roll away from her attacker, the blade of a knife flew at her, burying itself in her throat. It came with speed and fury.
Just like that.
In a second, blood soaked the fabric gagging her, slipping over her tongue with a peculiar metallic taste as it spilled from the corners of her mouth like candle wax.
In the final beats of her life, Olivia Grant caught a glimpse of her killer. Like a camera with a fading battery, her green eyes captured the image until they could no longer see.
Only her killer knew the irony of her last words.
Taylor Ryan woke up with a start. Something was very, very wrong. She gazed out into the blackness through her bedroom window overlooking Port Gamble Bay. It was that again. The feeling she could never explain to anyone. The same feeling that only her twin sister Hayley also felt: a gentle but unmistakable wave like low-level electrical current that most might not even notice. The last time it had come over her—or at least the most memorable time—was Christmas night the previous year. That was the night that Katelyn Berkley, just fifteen years old, had died.
Without reaching for her robe, the sixteen-year-old walked toward the window. It was so cold in her little upstairs bedroom that she could almost see her breath. She made a mental note to ask for a space heater for Christmas. At the foot of her bed, the family dachshund, Hedda, lifted her head and then dropped it back down. Whatever Taylor was doing apparently held no interest for the world’s laziest dog.
The bay was empty and its surface was a stark sheet of glass. Taylor leaned closer, and her breath condensed on the wavy vintage glass of the house built in 1859. A perfect circle appeared. A circle? Then just as quickly as it had come, it vanished. That feeling, a strange urgency that came from nowhere, also evaporated.
Taylor went back to bed and let out a sigh, thinking back on the Halloween party earlier that evening. Brianna had billed it as the party of the year. Her dad and stepmom were away on a cruise, and she had raided their liquor cabinet. Virtually everyone from Kingston High was there and in costume, including a few crashers from another school. She and Hayley had gone as the Olsen twins and had lacquered on layers of mascara and eye shadow, never once letting on to their parents that they were going to sneak their first drinks that night. In the end, it wasn’t as exciting as she had thought it was going to be. Watching a few drunken teenagers act stupid and throw up everywhere wasn’t exactly her idea of fun. She switched to soda pop early in the evening.
Around midnight, it became obvious that her best friend, Beth Lee, had seen better days. Despite the fact that it was Halloween, a quasi-holiday, they still had school the next day. The four of them—she, Hayley, Hayley’s boyfriend Colton and Beth—had decided to leave even though it looked like the party would rage on for hours.
Taylor knew she was going to feel like crap in the morning. The only solace that came to her at that moment was fleeting. She figured Beth, who’d had a lot more to drink, would look far worse. The irony of that, of course, was that Beth Lee didn’t give a crap what anyone thought about her.
She just didn’t.
Taylor burrowed back under the heavy blankets and turned to the wall that separated her room from her sister’s. With her free hand, she swiveled the plastic cover away from the spot where there had once been an electrical outlet. The outlet cover in her sister’s room was already open.
“Something’s happening, Hayley.”
Taylor heard a shifting of sheets and felt the vibration of her sister as she rolled closer to the wall.
“I know,” Hayley answered. “I’ve been thinking about it since we got home. Something’s up. Brianna was in rare form at the party and Beth’s definitely gonna be grounded for life, but it’s more than that.” She hesitated before saying it out loud. “The last time I felt this was when Katelyn died.”
Just inches apart, Hayley faced her sister through the hole in the old plaster-and-lath wall. Her head was on a cloud of goose down, a pillow that accompanied her on every sleepover she’d ever been to. Hayley was a mirror image of her sister. Winter-white skin. Long, messy blonde hair. Blue eyes. At sixteen, the girls had a bond greater than mere sisterhood, greater than twinship and all that comes with being so, so close to another human being. The sisters also shared an ability to somehow see letters in signs or headlines rearrange themselves into words that revealed important messages. It always creeped them out a little when that happened. Even more unnerving, in the direst of circumstances, just by touching certain objects they could conjure images and memories that were not their own. They never told anyone about those incidents. Who would believe them?
And while they didn’t understand it and were certainly unable to control it, the girls were digging in deep to find ways to accept whatever it was. They saw it as more than the ability to sense something; it was the ability to decipher what was happening now, and sometimes what had happened in the past, in a way that others could not. It was as if they were able to catch a whisper from the wind.
Freakish? Sure. Different from others? Absolutely. Whatever it was that passed through them bound them closer together and shut out others, including their best friend, Beth Lee, and Hayley’s boyfriend, Colton James.
As the rain pelted the rippled windowpanes and the wind scraped a dead branch from an overgrown rhododendron against the espresso brown siding of house number 19, the Ryan sisters talked into the early morning hours.
All without uttering a single word.
The 911 call came in around 2 a.m., the time the bars closed—always a busy hour for the Kitsap County law enforcement communications center in Bremerton, the region’s largest city. The comm center’s dispatcher on duty was Sally Marie Butterworth, a twenty-eight-year-old mother of two who liked working nights so that she and her husband, a navy yard pipefitter, never had to put their son and daughter in what they considered “prison for tots,” or the local daycare center.
Sally had taken a number of 911 calls that Halloween, including a doozy about a tipped-over jack-o’-lantern that had ignited a two-alarm blaze and torched five cars at the Mariner’s Glen apartment complex off Jackson in Port Orchard. A call from Chico had buzzed through around eleven o’clock from a woman who was suspicious about a homemade treat:
Caller: My daughter brought home a popcorn ball that I think might be laced with something.
Sally: Is your daughter ill?
Caller: No, ma’am, she’s not. I wouldn’t let her eat it.
Sally: What makes you think the popcorn ball has drugs?
Caller: I just don’t trust the person who made it. She’s total trailer trash. (Slightly muffled) Amber Marie, get that cat off the stove!
Sally: Why don’t you throw it away?
Caller: (Long pause, the tinkling of ice cubes in a glass) I guess I could do that. Good idea.
Sally Butterworth disconnected the line and her eyes rolled upward in their sockets to the ceiling. She hated being called “ma’am” by someone who was probably her same age. She also wondered why people didn’t just use common sense. The way Sally saw it, if she had a dollar for every idiotic call she received, she would already own that candy apple red Nissan Juke she’d had her eye on.
The line buzzed again. Sally set down her Fiji Water, adjusted her headset and answered:
Sally: What’s your emergency?
Caller: It’s really bad, I think. My friend is all bloody. Really, really hurt. Help me. Help us. This is really bad.
Sally: Tell me your name and where you’re calling from.
Caller: Brianna Connors. I’m at 2121 Desolation View Drive in Port Gamble. Can’t you just Google Map me or something?
Sally: Help is on the way, Brianna. Can you tell me your friend’s name and what happened?
Caller: Her name is Olivia Grant. She’s an exchange student from England. I don’t know what happened. She was fine. Really. We were all at my house for a Halloween party. During the party, I went upstairs to check on her and to switch costumes. She was asleep on my bed. She didn’t answer when I said her name. I figured she was drunk, so I went back downstairs again. When I came back to my room again after everyone left, she was on the floor and she wasn’t moving. And then I saw the blood.
Sally: Where is the blood?
Caller: All over. I don’t know what happened to her. I think she’s been cut up or something. It’s super nasty.
Sally: Who else is there? Your parents?
Caller: My dad and stepmom are on a cruise. My boyfriend’s here. You want to talk to him?
Sally: What is he doing?
Caller: Watching TV, I think. I dunno. Just send someone.
Sally: Can you check to see if Olivia’s breathing?
Caller: I already checked. She’s not. I don’t think she is. Hang on… Drew, she wants you to check to see if she’s breathing.
Boy: (In the background, but audible) I’m not going to do that. She’s your friend and it’s your bedroom, Bree.
Caller: You are a lot of help, Drew.
Sally: Brianna, are you still there?
Caller: Yes. I hear the sirens. Do you want me to stay on the phone?
Sally: No, you can hang up. Law enforcement is there. The ambulance is a minute behind the police.
Sally logged the end of the call on her computer screen.
The 911 dispatcher wasn’t sure exactly what was going on up there in the northern edge of the county, but if there really was a dead girl on the floor—and if this wasn’t some teenager’s Halloween prank—the incident was going to be newsworthy. The caller’s attitude had struck Sally as atypical. She seemed more annoyed than upset. It was also strange that she wouldn’t confirm if her friend was breathing. She had asked her boyfriend to do it. Her boyfriend? While Brianna Connors was on the phone making a 911 call, she said her boyfriend was watching TV.
Who watches TV with a dead girl in the next room? What was up with that?
Most of the kids from Port Gamble coveted a house like Brianna Connors’s place on Desolation View Drive, a couple of miles outside the historic district off the highway to Kingston. Perched on a craggy bluff overlooking Puget Sound, it was a three-story mega-home built of the finest materials: western red cedar beams on a football field of travertine. Her father was a stub of a man, a lawyer who apparently needed to show the world that he’d made it. Big-time. He wore a different Armani suit every day, and parked his Lamborghini in the three-car garage next to his two limited edition Porsche Boxsters that he only drove on rare sunny days. Yet none of that was what the Port Gamble crowd envied most about the Connors. It was that the house was new in a town full of vintage homes whose door. . .
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